Interview with former President of the American Nurses Association (ANA)

by Dr. Michael Grosspietsch (GEI Executive Director)
I have had the opportunity to visit Rwanda twice over the last three years, and I cannot wait to return!

This is what Mary Foley, the former President of the American Nurses Association (ANA), wrote when sharing her thoughts about Rwanda. Mary Foley is a faculty member of UCSF’s nursing school who became the first nurse to ever make it onto the list of the 100 most influential in healthcare.

Her story with Rwanda started when she led a small nursing delegation in 2011. During that trip her group met nurses and other healthcare workers across the country. She wrote about that trip saying “Before we started our travels in country, we learned about the great recovery of this small country as it moves forward, but will never forget, the Genocide in 1994. We were struck by the sense of national unity and pride, and forward thinking policy initiatives that placed a value on healthy villages and families.

The group made different visits to better understand the healthcare systems in the country. They learned about the Rwandan efforts to provide care at health centers, and they had discussions with caregivers about stress, infection control, and care of the newborn. All these conversations inspired and encouraged Mary to come back to the country in 2014 to support the nation’s efforts to develop their healthcare system. “We were encouraged by the commitment each person had to do their best.” Mary said.

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Her second trip to Rwanda was the inaugural delegation of the Infection Prevention & Control program in collaboration with GEI. She visited four hospitals and the School of Health Sciences. During these visits, and in conversations with key health leaders in Rwanda, she conducted an assessment of infection control needs as Rwanda implemented accreditation standards for the hospitals. The most important meeting was with the Minister of Health, who reviewed the GEI concept paper, and she gave her permission to begin work with three referral hospitals, which we plan to initiate this summer. During the meeting, the Rwandan Minister of Health asked Mary an important question about why she thought anyone would come with her to work on this project? Mary answered: ” I have two responses; 1, that many health professionals in the U.S. may be cutting down on their work, but they have not given up their commitment to do for others, and many are looking for the next great challenge, and 2, that Rwanda is a beautiful but undiscovered country.

These were important steps to assure that the work will be designed to advance the health care goals of Rwanda and are compatible with their own health initiatives. Mary shared her thoughts about this saying: “I was struck at every hospital by the courage and commitment everyone has to providing the best care they can. I am also struck by how open and sharing the people of Rwanda are, and how safe I feel when I am there.

Mary Foley is inviting individuals and institutions who have an interest to help with the scale-up of this unique initiative to join our IPC delegations. We’ve started to receive applications for our next delegation (Aug 4 -14, 2015).

The opportunity to combine good work, meeting good people, and seeing the wonders of Africa are among the reasons to join GEI, and me, as we work on infection control in Rwanda.” Mary said.

For further information about the program, please visit the program page.